Pam Grier built her career starring in blaxploitation films. Over the course of a five-year spread (1972-1977), Grier starred in 18 films. Among her most popular are Coffy (1973), Scream Blacula Scream, The Arena (1974), Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975), Bucktown (1975) and Friday Foster (1975). Not only does she exemplify the era
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Grier’s other films pretty much follow the same formula. In most, she is the scantily clad heroine. In a few, her breasts are exposed ala Apollonia in Purple Rain (a role that probably would have gone to Grier had it been made ten years earlier). But in every film, Grier’s female lead is the fantasy of men, specifically white men. This is even true to the fact of how these movies were made. Larry Gordon, head of
These four women and the three types of roles afforded to black women in the 1970s resurfaced in the 1990s when those of us who were born at that time were in our late teens and early 20s. There was
By 1979, the blaxploitation era had come to a close. When asked then by Essence magazine about her roles and whether or not she felt exploited by the industry, Grier responded:
Why would people think I would ever demean the Black woman? I was tried and convicted without being asked to testify in my defense. Sure, a lot of those films were junk. But they were what was being offered. They provided work for me and jobs for hundreds of Blacks. We all needed to work. We all needed to eat.